Community Organizer

Community Organizer’s Statement

Gail Taylor

Art is a communal experience.

Creators of art and artistic experiences often rely upon an audience for a variety of reasons, including feedback. However, there is more to being a member of an audience than generating feedback for an artist. Being an audience member can be an enlightening and potentially transformative communal experience. This is my philosophy of community organizing: community organizing is community outreach through engagement.

One recent example of a time when I put into practice this philosophy of community organizing through engagement is when I brought a group of students from Kobe Shukugawa Gakuin University who were enrolled in an English immersion program at Pitzer College to The Pasadena Playhouse for the Bernard Weinraub play, “Above the Fold,” directed by Steven Robman and starring Taraji P. Henson. Through this experience, I acted as a bridge between cultures for my students for whom English was an alternative language. Prior to our arrival, my students and I took the opportunity to study the educational materials provided by The Pasadena Playhouse team of organizers (Brown & Thornton, 2014). This in-depth study of the intent behind the play provided crucial information that my students needed in order to understand the ideas and emotions expressed by the actors on stage.

Another example of arts-based community organizing is when I helped organize two conferences at my university pertaining to cultural studies. The events brought together emerging scholars from Southern California and beyond California’s borders to experience (and create) culture from a multiplicity of platforms and perspectives.

Community organizing in the arts communities (academic and folk) to which I belong consists of traversing presumed boundaries in order to build bridges. Bridges are built through acknowledging the role of art in the community. The stage, to paraphrase Shakespeare, is part of the commons. Need there be an “insider/outsider” dichotomy when it comes to seeing a play? No. But there is a need for an audience. Preferably that audience has the desire to participate in a reciprocal act of making a play happen through performance and observation.

I blend my participation in student leadership organizations and my engagement with 501 (c) (3) non-profits in Los Angeles, with my passion for arts-based community building. I turn networking opportunities into community-building opportunities, often through practicing active listening. Sometimes opportunities are facilitated by the use of social media (Twitter, WordPress, Tumblr, Blogspot, Linkedin, Instagram). I bring people together through small-group meetings, conference planning, teaching and learning opportunities, and coffee klatches, always with a welcoming tone.

My strength is my flexibility.

Community organizing through the arts is about relationship-building.